nature, Opt Outside in Texas, Travel & Tourism, U.S. Destinations

Wine, Bread, and Hiking? Castroville, Texas Has It All!

This post was updated on 4 April 2021 to include information about the Castroville Poppy House.

Texas travel and tourism has no shortage of small-town stopping points. One of my favorite things about Texas is that travel here often involves history, nature, or some combination of the two. Today’s post is about Castroville, “the Little Alsace of Texas” and a small town west of San Antonio. At first glance, Castroville seems unassuming, with Highway 90 running down the middle and a lack of bells and whistles. For those in the know, it’s not a place to pass through, it’s a whole destination: Haby’s Alsatian Bakery, Medina River Winery, historic landmarks such as the Castroville Poppy House, and public parks. There’s plenty to do to make Castroville your next staycation or vacation.

Hiking is fun for the whole family!

My personal favorite place to go is Castroville Regional Park. It boasts a pool, RV park, hiking trails, and I’ve seen people depart their vehicles with pool floaties destined for the Medina River. It’s a great location for picnics with family and friends. Be cautious of the wildlife and heed all warning signs. Bring lots of water and watch your step!

If you’re anything like me then after your hike at the park, you’ll want to stop by the Magnolia Filling Station for some iced coffee.

Castroville-based Black Rose Writing sponsors a Little Free Library next to the Magnolia Filling Station

Wine lovers are not forgotten in Castroville. Medina River Winery is locally owned and operated. My personal favorite is the Blanc Dubois. They are currently open for pickup – send them a message to reserve a bottle!

Castroville boasts another unique feat: At the turn of the 21st century, an entire 1,200+ sq ft, 17th century Alsatian house was disassembled in France and put back together in Castroville (see below pic to get an idea of the style). Click here to learn more about the Steinbach House.

Photo by Pierre Blachu00e9 on

Another gem is Haby’s Alsatian Bakery, which has such a delicious assortment of treats and sweets that as I write this I am very tempted to drive over and get some. In addition to ready-made breads, donuts, and pastries, they fill custom orders and supply bread for Sammy’s Restaurant across the street.

Over Easter weekend, my son and I visited the Castroville Poppy House. I drove by it on my way to the regional park and thought, where did all these flowers come from?? Fortunately, Lloyd and Sally have opened their historic property during the months of March and April for visits and photographs. Their beautiful dog, Jack, is ready to greet you with a friendly tail wag – if that doesn’t entice you further, I don’t know what else will!

(The following information comes from the Castroville Area Chamber of Commerce 2020 Visitor Guide.) The home on the property is the G. L. Haass House and was built in the late 1840s/early 1850s, with room additions occurring over the subsequent years. “The house was constructed using hand-hewed native cypress for beaming and framing with locally quarried limestone for the foundation… The original hand-made front doors are of a unique French style assembled using wooden dowels no nails. All windows were 12 paned double hung windows with louvered shutters.”

It is believed that the log cabin – located next to the windmill and well – was relocated to this property from another site but the reason is unknown. According to the 2020 Visitor Guide, it is “the last original free standing one room log cabin left in Castroville from the early pioneer days.”

George Haass was deeded this property by Henri Castro (for whom Castroville is named after) in 1847. “George Haass, a native of Durkheim, Bavaria Germany, was one of Henri Castro’s original colonists. He was one of two paid guides leading the colonists out of San Antonio on September 1, 1844, to settle near the Medina River on September 3, 1844, and was one of the original signers naming and founding Castroville on September 12, 1844.” Haass also went on to become Castroville’s first constable in 1844, the first sheriff of Medina County in 1848, and was a mayor, among other business ventures.

Can you imagine saddling up and heading west to Castroville? Now, we get there in no time – all we have to do is load up the car and head down Highway 90 or the farm-to-market road (my preferred route, actually, I like taking the back roads 🙂 ).

In some more good news, Lloyd shared that they are planning to turn the A. H. Tondre House (catty-cornered to the G. L. Haass house) into a bed and breakfast. Sign me up for that! The A. H. Tondre house is an early 1900s Sears, Roebuck and Co model.

Information on the properties listed above as well as much more is available in the Chamber’s visitor guide, which also includes a map and descriptions of the 70+ properties on the Castroville Walking Tour.

Castroville has so much to offer for history and nature lovers and anyone seeking a laid-back weekend. (I can’t wait to do the historic walking tour!) Visit the Chamber of Commerce and the City of Castroville to learn more!

Travel & Tourism, U.S. Destinations

A Morning at the Mobile Botanical Gardens

I recently visited the Mobile Botanical Gardens with my son! We were greeted by one of the on-site cats, provided some fish food for the little pond, and encouraged to head up the hill to visit the chickens. If that doesn’t entice you, it is also leashed-dog friendly!

The Mobile Botanical Gardens are known for their stunning and picturesque camellias. I strongly encourage you to read this article by the Smithsonian Institute Community of Gardens, which explains how camellias got their start in Alabama thanks to Kosaku Sawada, who went on to develop many beautiful hybrids.

A hungry and hard-working bee

The Mobile Botanical Gardens have been around since the 1970s. In 2019, they faced a closure due to lack of funds. I couldn’t find any documents online with details on raising the funds, but the community succeeded in one way or another because it is still open.

Gardens are an integral component of the community experience – many offer classes on gardening or food preparation, hold music events, and overall are an accessible and relatively inexpensive location to rejuvenate and enjoy nature. Where I live, the botanical gardens are located near a popular area within the city as well as within walking distance to a bus stop.

And a bonus – botanical gardens are often not crowded. Family-friendly and socially-distancing friendly!

Explore more at and on their social media. This location is also part of the reciprocal admissions program.

Bonus content!

After the gardens, we did a to-go/curbside pickup order from Mobile’s one and only The Cheese Cottage to take home and share with family.

How scrumptious is that? I am down with almost any charcuterie situation. One day I’d like to eat there in-person to get the entire cheese and wine experience.

Safe travels, friends!


Summer, Sunshine, and Sunflowers

Summer is my favorite season. I love Wisconsin summer – Up North during the summer means family, beach time, and camping. And I love living in Texas, where even the sun seems bigger, and where it’s acceptable for everyone to be sweaty all summer long and not have to worry about being judged. No matter where you live, summer means grilling out, traveling, and early morning sunrises.

Summer 2020 (and the year in general) has been a roller coaster for many reasons and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. In addition to social distancing, allergies, humidity, and high temps can force people inside during the summer.

For work and personal reasons, I am not traveling this summer. I would love nothing more than to pack up, drive north, and stay with my parents for a while.

A view of home

In a time when the healthy and safety of everyone is of the utmost importance, how can we still have a fun summer?

In no particular order, here’s a list of things you can do:

  1. Have kids or dogs or both? Play in the backyard
  2. Flying solo or chilling with your roomies? Set up a tent in your backyard and go on a staycation: grill out, order take in, and break out the fancy wine (no one’s judging if you play Slap the Bag, though)
  3. Take a walk in your neighborhood- this is a great opportunity to phone that friend you’ve been meaning to call
  4. Get up early and drink your morning coffee while you watch the sunrise
  5. Set a new bike riding goal – can you beat the 20 miles you did last week?
  6. Go to a recreation trail before peak hours – Google Maps shows how busy locations are by time of day, taking out all the guess work for you
  7. Give your green thumb some time to shine – those plants need some love, too!
  8. Any outside projects on your to-do list? Clean those gutters! Paint that trim!
  9. Sit on the patio with your mimosa and write your bucket list

There’s so much to do and there are ways to do them safely: bring a water bottle, wear your mask when needed, tell a friend where you are in case of emergency. Plus, going for a walk is free. The only thing you are spending is time on yourself.

I’m adding a few things to my Texas Bucket List. Eventually I’d like to take a trip to every state park but that’s a long-distance goal. In the meantime here are a few other Texas destinations I plan to visit:

Wildseed Farms: In addition to beautiful fields conveniently located in Fredericksburg, they also have a Biergarten and wine tasting room.

Fort Worth Botanic Garden and the Dallas Arboretum and Botanic Garden: I have yet to explore this metropolitan area and both of these gardens are in the American Horticulture Society reciprocal admissions program – if you have a membership at a participating garden, you may be eligible for special admission privileges and discounts at other member gardens. More on the reciprocal admissions in my upcoming three-part botanical garden series!

Galveston: This is an historic city full of old homes, monuments, and perseverance. According to the site’s history page, it has 2,000+ buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. Above all, Galveston is the birthplace of Juneteenth. To learn more about African American history and Galveston, click here.

In the featured image at the top of the page, you see an imperfect sunflower: pieces of a couple petals are missing, the leaves aren’t blemish free, and you can tell that the background isn’t especially exciting (that particular piece of land is under construction). How like this sunflower are we as humans?

Sunflowers have this amazing ability to grow along the edges, in unlikely spots. The imperfect sunflower above was the only flower growing along the edge of the lot I was parked at.

A burst of sunflowers from a recent walk

Sunflowers typically follow the sun all day long and rest at night. They keep their eye on the prize.

We, too, are blemished. We are not perfect. We make mistakes.

And we can also follow the sun. We can also keep our eye on the prize and not let outside things distract us.

I’m focusing this time on relaxation and reconnecting with my passions. We’re staying local and taking plenty of walks; my son has lots of energy so any way I can wear him out is a plus! The ultimate prize is next year’s vacation to visit family.

How are you staying safe and practicing wellness this summer season?

About the Writer

The Coveter

What is the deal with wanderlust?

When I was briefly on the Tinder, it seemed like every guy was looking for a picture-perfect girl who would be up for spontaneous adventures to anywhere as if they had no other earthly obligations.

In the wise words of Ariana Grande, “Thank you, next.”

But there is something important here: Wanderlust.

I, too, have daydreamed about making over a camper van, minimizing my belongings down to a shoe box, and traveling across the country with my toddler, dog, and three cats, all the while convincing people that I am a free spirit and that I have made it.

Can you imagine three cats in a camper van? My cat Michael likes to chew on paper – paper towels, napkins, toilet paper, whatever he can get his cute little white sock paws on. With my luck, he’d get ahold of the TP in the camper van and THEN WHAT WOULD I DO? Don’t we already have enough flashbacks from the 2020 toilet paper shortage? *shudder*

Don’t be fooled – this nebelung wants to eat your TP!

If everyone didn’t have a case of wanderlust before COVID-19 hit, they certainly do now. I less want to wander than I want to participate in safe-paced vehicular travel on a 21-hour drive north to visit my parents. In my opinion, Wisconsin is best seen in the summer. Sure autumn has beautiful leaves but the threat of snow lurks just out of sight, leaving everyone waiting for the inevitable.

The Inevitable
Although it’s hard to beat the views of Lake Superior

So I decided to do a little searching on the Internet – why is wanderlust so trendy? Is it the FOMO? The YOLO? Is that what the kids are still saying?

I came across the thesis “Has Instagram Created Wanderlust: How Experiential Sharing Is Influencing Happiness” by Crawford D. Warrick. (By the way, Crawford Warrick, if you ever see this, I love your name!) He references a study in which the results found “the prime factor in choosing a location is the visual appeal of that destination. Users are attracted to locations that appear attainable and exotic; scenic landscapes and well photographed places ranked highest in user preference.”1

Social media is all about looking at stuff, and what better place to look at stuff than Instagram? Warrick mentions that 88% of IG users are outside of the United States.1 We are inundated with photos of the most beautiful places across the GLOBE – how could we not be afraid to miss out?

And there’s another factor in play: “As remote work becomes more and more common, travel has also become a part of daily life for millennials who choose to take their work on the road. This can mean that travel is not just seen as a vacation, but as a lifestyle, as well.”2

A lifestyle. An income! Theoretically in-between potty training my toddler and fighting Michael for the TP I would be able to drive and make money at the same time.

It should go without saying that my stress threshold is not that high. I opt for more local travel. Besides investing in your local economy, a night or two at a local hotel can still feel like a mini getaway.

Texas is my current home and it boasts 80+ state parks3 and 14 national sites.4 We live in the San Antonio area and are happy that many state parks are a very reasonable drive away. San Antonio also has an extensive parks & rec system – we have been here for two years and still haven’t made it everywhere. Plus the trail system is 80+ miles and still developing.5

I say all this to say, wanderlust is what you make of it. It is a feeling and it is a lifestyle. It can be far or close, big or small, new or familiar. Personally, I like to wander in the pre-trodden wilderness usually because I’m either by myself or with my son.

We’ll worry about forging a new path when he’s a little older

I am telling you – at the time if I had seen one more “let’s go on an adventure” in a Tinder dude’s bio, I was going to swear off men altogether. Now, I don’t judge quite so harshly, and I got rid of the Tinder. So I get it. Not all of us think an epic trip is going to the two-story HEB (on my bucket list) or the combined TJ Maxx & HomeGoods store (I could live in there). I am satisfied with my simplicity.

Castroville Regional Park

So instead of coveting my social media neighbor’s beautiful photos of mountains reflecting off a perfect-blue lake while their boho-themed van can be glimpsed in the foreground, I am happy with what I have: a child with Texas-sized energy and boundless local trails to whet our wanderlust appetite.